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Child advocacy helpline launched

pound;450k 24-hour national support service is first of its kind in UK

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pound;450k 24-hour national support service is first of its kind in UK

Children in Wales who feel their schools or teachers are not doing enough to deal with their problems will soon have a dedicated service they can turn to for help.

Education Minister Jane Hutt today launched the National Advocacy and Advice Helpline, backed by pound;459,850 of new Assembly government funding.

The helpline, which will be available through free phone lines, texts, email and online instant messaging, is the first of its kind in the UK to be rolled out nationally. It will work with and complement other advocacy services and helplines such as ChildLine.

Professional independent advocates will offer 24-hour support to children and young people if they feel they are not being listened to or getting help elsewhere.

This might include support with emotional issues such as divorce or separation, advice on foster care or healthcare or concerns over a lack of local children's services.

But children can also turn to the service if they feel they are being let down by their school over issues such as bullying, or if their council is preventing them from attending their choice of school.

A government spokeswoman said: "It will be more than an information service. It is about providing advice and finding services for children and young people to help them in all sorts of situations.

"It will give them practical assistance and support when things become particularly difficult and if they feel they are not getting the help they need or are entitled to."

Ms Hutt launched the new service at the Senedd today during celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Since 2004, the Assembly government's work on children and young people has been guided by the UN convention, which lays out a comprehensive set of rights and responsibilities for under-17s.

The government based its seven core aims for children and young people on the convention, and officials are drawing up a new Assembly measure to embed it further in law.

But Ms Hutt acknowledged that although the convention was part of the personal, social and health education curriculum, more work needed to be done to ensure that teachers and schools appreciate exactly what the convention means and why it is important for pupils.

The minister launched a new toolkit related to the convention containing examples of good practice and resources for primary and secondary schools.

She said it would help teachers to develop a better understanding of the convention and promote its aims.

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